Simply put situational awareness is being aware of what is going on around you. Start with anticipation. Do you realize that many retail stores close off certain entrances/exits at night? Imagine you park your car and start walking toward the door you typically enter, only to find it closed. Do you walk back to your car and move closer to the open entrance, or do you decide to walk to the open door. When you leave the store however, you are much further away from your car, a much longer walk across a poorly lit parking lot.

Anticipate things like exits being closed and adapt your habits

Adapt to your surroundings and use them to your advantage. You had run in to grab something quick and decided you do not need a shopping cart to carry your groceries out to the car. After all, you only have two small bags.

Push a shopping cart out to the car even if you only have one bag. Your hands are weapons and at night, walking across a big parking lot is not the time to have your hands full. Use a cart to keep your hands free and the cart is a weapon as well. It is a solid object between you and any attacker, and it can be used to strike an attacker. Your objective is to prevent physical contact with any attacker.

Walk with your head up and scanning. Attackers look for those individuals that are distracted by cell phones or other things or those that appear unsure of themselves.

How many times have you seen someone with a cell phone pinched between their ear and shoulder as they load bags into their car? They have no idea of what is going on around them and thus have become more vulnerable.

Use the automatic locking system and only hit the button once to unlock the driver’s door only. This prevents someone from slipping in the passenger’s side or backseat while you get in the driver’s side. Have your keys at the ready as you leave the store.

Keys can be a weapon and to be affective place the longest key between two fingers and make a fist so the key protrudes to be used as a stabbing implement.

Most key fobs have a panic alarm that will sound the horn if you perceive a threat as you near your vehicle. In most cases, unless your car or you are a specific target the attacker will follow or intercept you at an ambush point. Attackers generally pick their victims based on gender, perceived gain such as money, credit cards, type of vehicle and possibly, for the items you are carrying.


You decide to take the family out to a movie. Once inside the theater do you look for the exit points or are you more concerned about getting some popcorn. Where do you sit once inside? Do you look for end seats or the back row, so if something were to happen you and your family are not surrounded by others in the middle rows, others that would impede your escape? Does your spouse/partner and children know where the exits are relative to where you are sitting?

Sitting the middle of a group of people will hinder your escape because people will panic and flounder about and you may not even be able to get under the line of fire if there is an active shooter in the building.

Get in the habit of looking for an escape route whenever you enter any building. Restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores and so on. What can you use for cover and/or concealment if someone starts shooting? Adapt to your surroundings. What do you do when you hear a gunshot or what you think is a gunshot?

Most people do not recognize a gunshot when they hear it, because it is not something they hear every day and some may have never heard one before in real life. They do not anticipate gunshots so when they hear a loud noise a gunshot is the last thing they imagine. While mass shootings/murders are still relatively rare they do happen, and they can happen anywhere and anyone could be the shooter.

Law enforcement and military personnel are trained to run toward small arms fire to return fire but this only works if you have weapon to return fire with and have the proper training. People that have been involved in an active shooting have remarked that they may have returned fire if they had a weapon. This may be true but during an active shooting anyone with a visible firearm is a target of law enforcement personnel and you may very well be mistaken for the shooter and shot for your troubles.

Of course, use your weapon to save your life and the life of others but if you do not have the training and have never been in a firefight before, you may create more havoc and cause injuries to others. Knowing what to do requires experience and in reality, there is only one-way to gain that experience.

Most active shooters other than snipers are standing up shooting at standing targets so the deck/ground is the safest place initially. Get under the line of fire. Once on the floor/ground move away from the shooter before they decide to start shooting at people already on the ground. Leave your belongings, and move toward the exits that you had previously located as you entered the establishment.

Find cover, if you cannot get to an exit, which is protection from rounds or conceal yourself so the shooter does not know you are there. Concealment means you are not in sight of the shooter and thus not a target for the moment. Cover is protection from rounds, such as a wall, heavy furniture and so forth.

Your objective is to move away from the shooter while not making yourself an obvious target, this means get low and get moving away.